A decades-long effort to build a boathouse along the banks of the Potomac River is lurching forward once more.
Officials with the National Park Service have wrapped up an environmental analysis of the project and settled on a preferred alternative near Rosslyn for its construction, in the latest bit of forward momentum for an initiative that has long bedeviled county leaders.
Local high schoolers have been particularly keen on seeing a new boathouse come to the fruition, as the closest access points for rowing teams have long been in Georgetown or Alexandria, but the project’s complexity has repeatedly stalled it.
NPS took control of Arlington’s portion of the Potomac shoreline after the construction of the GW Parkway, and the federal agency has spent years working off-and-on with the county to find a way to give local rowers easier access to the river. Arlington officials helped jump-start the process in 2014 by buying a parcel of land along Lee Highway just south of the Key Bridge, giving the NPS some added flexibility as it evaluated several options where the boathouse could be built.
Now, the agency is recommending a design that would involve building a 300-foot-long floating dock and 14,000 square feet of boat storage along the Potomac’s shoreline near Rosslyn, just across from Theodore Roosevelt Island. The plan also calls for building a support facility on the county-owned Lee Highway site with office space, locker rooms and handicapped parking.
NPS also evaluated plans to build the boathouse on the same site near the island without the support building, as well as an option that would involve building the boathouse on Gravelly Point near Reagan National Airport instead.
Yet the agency settled on its preferred alternative because the additional space off Lee Highway “allows for development of a smaller boat storage structure while providing additional support facilities outside the floodplain, off NPS property, and close to transit,” officials wrote in the environmental analysis.
They also noted that the Potomac is a bit calmer near the Rosslyn location, earning it higher marks than Gravelly Point. The close proximity of the Rosslyn Metro station and several local bus stops, in addition to the Custis bike trail, also won the option some praise.
While the agency found that any construction would have some limited impacts on the area’s wetlands and soil, it broadly didn’t foresee many stumbling blocks for the project to move forward. Nevertheless, any construction will require both federal and state permits to advance, and the county will need to work with federal officials to find funding for the effort.
In the meantime, however, NPS is accepting comments on the environmental analysis through July 30 on its website. The agency also plans to hold a July 12 open house at Washington-Lee High School on the project, starting at 6 p.m.
Hat tip to Chris Slatt